Launched in 2001 by Thabo Mbeki as a presidential memorial project, Freedom Park was originally conceived as an authentic African and postcolonial monument based on the values of humanism and freedom and dedicated to the victims of conflict during the colonial epoch in South Africa. This conception was subsequently expanded to embrace the entire natural, social, political and cultural history of South Africa from the emergence of rudimentary organic cells some 3.6 billion years ago, through the emergence of modern humans rights and up to the present by positing the country as a place of origins. This article draws on the genealogical ideas of Friedrich Nietzsche and Michel Foucault as well on Frantz Fanon's theory of the role national culture in anti-colonial struggles and Steve Biko's conception of African culture and humanism to critically examine the monumental, antiquarian and critical uses of history in the construction of post-Apartheid public memorials and national monuments as manifest in Freedom Park.
The political posters produced by art centres are their most celebrated contribution to the struggle to end Apartheid. However art centres made another valuable contribution by encouraging a form of critical selfhood. This type of internal struggle against inferiority was formulated by the Black Consciousness Movement and is an important element in transformation. However with the end of Apartheid this contribution seems to have been dismissed, alongside poster production, as irrelevant to the new nation. The author investigates how the art centre functioned as a vehicle for critical selfhood and argues for its contemporary relevance.
Both the state and radical civil actors tend to perceive and define ordinary citizens in circumscribed ways; as rational actors who need to be persuaded through rational argument about why their participation is necessary for the democratic functioning of society. The assumption is that once people have been exposed to compelling arguments and incentives, they will activate their engagement with politics. Despite South Africa's embracing of participatory democracy, a chasm has emerged between policy ambitions and democratic practices. It is against this backdrop that the authors explore more closely how citizenship and political enrolment can be forged despite the stultifying political cultures that presently predominate. Using examples from the Two Thousand and Ten Reasons to Live in a Small Town public art project, this article looks at the potential of inclusionary public art practices as a means to inspire new affective forms of political enrolment. We argue that through transgressive aesthetics, public art can enable an experimental politics that has important implications for transformation, especially for future citizens.
This article explores a groundbreaking public art project, Hotel Yeoville, which keys into a diversity of immigrant and South African experiences through the medium of customized digital interfaces. The authors begin with an analysis of a series of contemporary South African artistic and literary representations of alienation, foreignness, xenophobia, migrancy and otherness. Dodd situates works such as Rian Malan's collection of essays Resident Alien and Neill Blomkamp's science fiction blockbuster film District 9 in relation to the xenophobic attacks that swept through South Africa in May 2008. Kurgan goes on to reflect on the making of Hotel Yeoville. Developed in collaboration with a hybrid mix of professionals from across the African continent and the globe, the project was installed in the public library of the pan-African suburb of Yeoville – home to 40,000 people, seventy per cent of whom are forced migrants from the rest of the African continent. In conclusion, the two authors engage with issues of authorship and subjectivity that have informed this virtual and visual intervention, seeking to ‘establish bonds of care across boundaries of inequality and exclusion, ideologies and religions, politics and power, nations and geography’.
All newly produced art is of its moment, and of its time, but things are not what they used to be. It is apparent that in an aftermath of modernity, art is now made with a widespread (yet not universal) sense that currency and contingency is all there is in the world, and maybe all that there will ever be. Such issues appear behind failures of universalism and the absence of historical guarantees. Recent artworks respond with provocative anticipations, of and for the present. Some go further still, by questioning the conditions of both contemporaneity and chronology from multiple vantage points. Issues of chronology appear in art forms in extremely wide-ranging ways, but take specific shape in the sites and spaces of South Africa. The argument offered in this article is shaped by encounters with such distinct artworks. Specific examples anticipate a present by offering what the author calls flexible chronology: inventive modes of temporal awareness and narrativization. A stronger sense of awareness opens into negotiations between self and other in relation to political, cultural and ideological forces, including transformation. Such are the productive tensions that are present for artists in South Africa, perhaps more than ever before.
There are a number of recent exciting developments in the Johannesburg alternative art scene. Alternative or experimental art spaces often exist as an alternative to commercial galleries and government or privately funded galleries as well as museums. They are therefore governed through a different set of rules, rules that often aim to transgress the institutional. These spaces, including the Parking Gallery, the Keleketla! Library and arguably the Wits School of Art's Substation gallery, invite debates about alternative art programming, collaborative art making and the necessity of institutional funding in order to maintain such spaces. In addition to these questions, it is pertinent to first determine what it is that classifies a space as alternative.
This article argues that much of established art production and reception in South Africa operates in ways which detract from the critical emancipatory potential of art and cultural production. It is argued that art can be a critical and democratic tool, in as far as it might work against or outside of established institutions which are invariably enlisted in the service of maintaining the status quo. The article is a partisan call to promote socially engaged art production, and, in order to facilitate this, for the radical transformation of educational institutions. Existing educational institutional practices which seek to engage society through art practice are considered. These examples might shed light on the workings of institutionalized power and open up possibilities for thinking about more democratic and inclusive modes of cultural production, which are not necessarily translatable to the established ‘art world’.
One of the essential challenges facing South Africans in building a democratic society is to move from redress through reconciliation to deeper transformational change. How one deepens surface structure by imagination and vision to ensure meaningful and enduring change is the focus of this article. The pressing need in higher education for a substantive discussion about the role of universities in nation-building and in developing citizenship in the visual arts must be expanded to make research relevant, inclusive and collaborative. The author considers the question of what an ‘African’ research and paradigm for the arts would mean and how the University of Johannesburg's visual arts students' participation in three examples of alternative spaces – Phumani Paper, Artist Proof Studio and a rural site in HaMakuya, Limpopo Province – has created enabling environments for students to see themselves as change agents and as navigators towards a democratic society.
Sino-Africa relations are criticized as a form of neo-colonialism on one hand and commended for their investment in African economies on the other. This article provides analyses of artwork featured in the ‘Making Way’ exhibition, which, by bringing together a combination of Chinese and South African artists, seeks to forge new paths in conceptualizations of migration, diaspora and identity. The intricate identities of Chinese communities who reside in contemporary South Africa are often overlooked. The geo-political similarities between these two nations form the basis of the curatorial thematic links. Artists such as Chen Qiulin, Hua Jiming, Maleonn, Lebogang Rasethaba, Kudzanai Chiurai, Athi Patra-Ruga, Gerald Machona and Doung Anwar Jahangeer reveal that seeing ‘makes way for a discursive window to the world’ and that notions of socio-cultural identities are constructed through modes of perception.
While certain forms of mobility are romanticized in the privileged worlds of art and academia, the need to move is often triggered by vulnerability, and literal pathways on the ground reveal much about human engagement with place. This article considers the work of Mauritian-born architect/artist/performer Doung Anwar Jahangeer who is based in Durban, South Africa. Inspired by Michel de Certeau, Jahangeer argues that pathways reveal the characteristics of society and uses the act of walking to question the degree to which meaningful transformation has taken place in South Africa. His City Walk performances disclose to audiences how grounded ways of engaging with movement can challenge the metaphoric blindness that handicaps privileged movement. Focusing on his performances from the 2012 ‘Making Way’ exhibition the author interprets Jahangeer's work as challenging blind spots with regard to space, particularly partial spaces still marred by Apartheid. Through performative walking he encourages his audiences to read between the lines of road markings, cracks and signs, and to experience the power of corporeally engaging with the road by thoughtfully placing one foot in front of the other as a mode of seeing.
South Africa's Post-Apartheid era is characterized by the rhetoric of ‘unity in diversity’. However, numerous artist-led public interventions disclose alienating socio-economic conditions. Neoliberal reforms in the context of prevailing structural designs of Apartheid in South Africa weaken the democratization process, making it figurative rather than tangible and participatory. There is a pervasive perception that centres of power within the arts in South Africa are located in institutions of white proprietorship. As a result, young artists create independent establishments where they can have some control over cultural production and dissemination. This article debates the different strategies that are used by young practising artists to confront contemporary challenges in Post-Apartheid South Africa. One of these strategies promotes integration and deracialization through persistent engagement with predominantly white institutions in order to generate a sense of common purpose while the other opts for the power of provocative racialized but marginalized cultural movements.
The spaces and tensions between races, ethnic groups, and communities in late Apartheid and post-1994 South African society, and the co-existence of different languages, religions and cultures, generated a society so fractured that cultural translation became a formidably difficult task. The concept of translation in a transforming society is examined through an analysis of two-dimensional language as a means of translating political events and experiences into visual forms, which attempt to communicate across cultural gaps. Iconic documentary photographs by Sam Nzima (1976) and Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) photographers (1997), struggle posters by co-operatives and formally trained designers, and artworks by Kevin Brand, Sue Williamson and Marion Arnold are discussed. The images reveal that different forms of visual representation encode different relationships of signifying content and aesthetic form to offer alternatives to speech and writing in communicating some implications of Apartheid politics, leaving a legacy that validates art and design as tools of political activism.
Third Text is published in print and online by Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group.